The West Central District sent all of its Class 3A schools back to the drawing board, giving them a week to decide for themselves what league they’ll compete in next fall.
The district did not grant or deny the appeals of Central Kitsap, Shelton or four of Tacoma’s public schools — Lincoln, Mt. Tahoma, Stadium and Wilson — on Wednesday to join the 3A South Puget Sound League, which would start in the 2016-17 school year ahead of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s newly implemented four-year classification cycle.
It instead asked the 15 Class 3A schools in the district to come up with a solution on their own and gave them a deadline of 4 p.m., Feb. 3.
In other words — we’re heading to overtime.
“It wasn’t the ruling I was expecting, but we’ll make it work and we’ll work together to put this together,” said Lakes athletic director Scott Nordi, who is also the co-president alongside White River’s Chris Gibson of the 3A/2A SPSL.
“I guess my reaction is, it wasn’t denied,” Central Kitsap athletic director Bill Baxter said. “At least we are going to be able to sit down and talk and come up with a resolution that will hopefully be equitable for everyone.”
Central Kitsap, Lincoln, Mt. Tahoma, Shelton, Stadium and Wilson were as of Wednesday the only remaining schools slated to comprise the 3A Narrows League — with Capital recently being connected with the 3A Greater Saint Helens League in the Southwest District.
All of them were denied membership to join the 3A SPSL, but all appealed to the West Central District. If granted, the appeal would have eliminated the Narrows League, which first formed in the 1980-81 school year, and placed the six schools into what would have been a 15-team 3A SPSL — likely split into two divisions.
Wednesday’s decision opens the door for the district to still have two separate leagues (which allows it to hold a district postseason tournament).
“I think one of the SPSL’s original points was if you are going to have two divisions, why not have two leagues?” said Tacoma School District athletic director Sam Reed. “This at least gives us the opportunity to have that discussion. We know we got to do something amongst the 15 schools that makes more sense than it does currently.
“I’m happy that there is an end in sight so that we can all move forward, and I’m happy that we are going to get everybody in a room and find out what works equally for everybody and not what works best for one group.”
Nordi said he believes this will bring Capital back into the fold in the West Central District.
Olympia School District athletic director Jeff Carpenter said on Tuesday that despite creating schedules as a member of the 3A GSHL, the 3A SPSL would still be an option if it was extended an invitation to rejoin the WCD.
“My bet is we’ll be working with 16 teams when it’s all said and done because I think Capital would want to be a part of this conversation in some way, shape or form,” Nordi said.
Carpenter also said that Capital didn’t want to remain in the 3A Narrows because of concern that the Tacoma schools are facing declining enrollment.
Reed said the Tacoma schools’ enrollment is actually up across the board, as was its participation numbers in sports. He said the goal is for its five public schools — Foss, Lincoln, Mt. Tahoma, Stadium and Wilson — to compete in the same league and classification at some point. Foss will compete in the 2A SPSL next year, but Reed said he doesn’t foresee the other four dropping from 3A anytime soon.
West Central District president Dwayne Johnson, who is also the athletic director of Port Angeles High School, said the common thread in Wednesday’s hearing was to find a solution that works best for all sides.
“We feel that we need more communication with the schools and their administrations to find a balance with either two leagues or one league with divisions within the league,” Johnson said.
“We want to be able to increase communication between schools, administration, athletic directors, parents and any community concerns. Bottom line.”
3A SOUTH PUGET SOUND LEAGUE
As of Jan. 27
Where did the rest go?
Auburn: 4A North Puget Sound League
Auburn Mountainview: 4A North Puget Sound League
Auburn Riverside: 4A North Puget Sound League
Enumclaw: 4A North Puget Sound League
Sumner: 4A South Puget Sound League
3A NARROWS LEAGUE
As of Jan. 27
The Narrows League first established in 1980 and is on the verge of disbanding ahead of the 2016-17 school year. Where are all those 4A Narrows and 3A Narrows schools as of Wednesday projected to be by next fall?
Bellarmine Prep: 4A SPSL
Gig Harbor: 3A SPSL
Olympia: 4A SPSL
Timberline: 3A SPSL
South Kitsap: 4A SPSL
Stadium: 3A Narrows
Yelm: 3A SPSL
Capital: 3A Greater Saint Helens League
Central Kitsap: 3A Narrows
Foss: 2A SPSL
Lincoln: 3A Narrows
Mount Tahoma: 3A Narrows
North Thurston: 3A SPSL
Shelton: 3A Narrows
Wilson: 3A Narrows